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AUTUMN STATEMENT: Thoughts from across the industry

  • 18 Nov 2022

Following Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement yesterday, we’ve gathered the thoughts of people from different areas of the construction industry…

Money

Rebecca Wilkinson, tax partner at accountancy firm at Menzies LLP

Business rates

“The Chancellor confirmed that the revaluation of business properties will go ahead next year, as planned, to reflect changes in property values. However, this will be implemented along with a package of support over the next five years to help businesses transition to their new bills.

“The increase in rates is needed to help local authorities continue to provide services. However, businesses that are already struggling with inflationary price rises, such as those in the retail and hospitality and leisure sectors, will receive targeted support.”

Stamp duty land tax

“SDLT cuts announced in September 2022 will now only be temporary and will remain in place until 31 March 2025. The aim of the cuts is to help the housing market and to support the jobs which rely on this market but only so long as the market needs additional support.”

Russell Kirkham, Group Marketing Director at building materials specialist Marshalls

The role of public spaces and the built environment industry

“With tax increases, public spending cuts and the rising cost of living, it’s never been more important to protect the shared spaces that people can enjoy for free, visit to engage with others, and connect with their communities. However, our research shows that four out of five people feel less safe when it’s dark in public spaces and are on average 12 times more likely to avoid areas when it’s dark compared to during daylight hours.

“Parks and gardens are considered the least safe spaces when it’s dark, with 80% of people avoiding them during this time – 40 times higher than in the daytime.

“Shared residential spaces, town centres and transport hubs are also places people would avoid when it’s dark. Whether considering cuts or investment, we must remember the role that design has to make users feel safe and included in public spaces at all times of the day and all year round.

“Not only will this help individuals, for example, by encouraging them to exercise outdoors, access training and employment opportunities, ditch their cars for public transport, and socialise with others, but this in turn, helps to support the local economy, society and environment.”

Mike Foster, CEO of the Energy and Utilities Alliance (EUA)

Energy policy ‘open goal’ missed

“The Chancellor confirming the energy price cap will see a whopping increase up to £3,000 in April will inevitably worry millions of hard-pressed families. Our recent consumer survey found 78% of Brits support keeping the price cap on energy bills in place, so an increase that plunges millions into fuel poverty is not what any households wanted to see.

“This is particularly immoral while the Government’s own Boiler Upgrade Scheme, that is still in place, hands out £5000 subsidies to the well-off to change their heating, while millions struggle to pay their bills.

“They have missed an open goal to solving some of the energy bills turmoil plaguing the British public. Redistributing these millions of pounds in pointless heat pump subsidies into insulation, efficiency measures, and bills support is really a no brainer.

“With news of renewed investment in nuclear, this budget also reinforces our view that longer-term we need to move away from fossil gas and switch our network over to hydrogen. Not only will this help to reduce emissions – which the Chancellor pointed out was a priority in his speech – this level of energy independence would also free us from the global gas markets that Putin’s war has significantly impacted.”

Russel Haworth, CEO, NBS a construction technology platform and CEO Byggfakta Group

“Connectivity drives growth, and thus this budget has some good news for the North East. The investment in infrastructure, including the Northern Powerhouse Rail, better local broadband and future devolution, giving us more of a political voice, look set to boost the area.

“Energy efficiency was mentioned, but little detail was given. A sensible move, which seems overlooked, would have been to zero rate VAT on energy-efficient refurbishments and associated technologies, which support the evolution from fossil fuels. Tax breaks for green innovation would also be transformative, helping drive growth and increase productivity.

“Construction is responsible for a quarter of UK emissions, and support for the sector to move away from traditional processes and materials would have increased the country’s resilience and drive growth.  Furthermore, the Treasury has identified embodied carbon has the most potential to be removed at the design and planning stages. Why isn’t changing construction methods on the agenda? This looks like another missed opportunity.

“While the focus on technical skills and education is a long-term investment in growth, there’s a risk that if the construction sector contracts too much, there won’t be the opportunities available.  While the Chancellor did mention careers advice being key in getting Britain working, our recent study found that half of young people were interested in a construction career, yet one in three had inadequate, dated careers guidance about the sector.”

Ben Hancock, MD of Oscar Acoustics, a Kent-based provider of architectural acoustic finishes

“Large construction projects have been paused because of uncertainty, making accurate forecasting impossible.

“Skilling up young people and focusing on technical education was mentioned, but this won’t help companies train the people they need now. Additional support for smaller employers to plug skills gaps would have been welcomed, as we frequently have to address the basics before we have productive employees.

“It’s now been officially announced that the country is in recession. There are over five million SMEs in the country, and the last recession saw small businesses like ours in the construction sector decimated. I worry the lack of support for SME investment is missing an opportunity to support jobs and drive growth. “

“We were hoping for incentives for those looking to expand with new premises or those planning to refurbish their existing spaces.”

“While the focus on technical skills and education is a long-term investment in growth, if the construction sector contracts, there will be fewer opportunities for the next generation. It’ll create problems for the future, hitting the economy like a ton of bricks.” 

Stuart Murphy, inventor and Founder of tidal range energy pilot, TPGen24

“The Chancellor shared plans today to temporarily increase the energy profit levy from 25% to 35% and implement a temporary 45% levy on electricity generators. While this is good news, disappointingly, he then went on to only mention a focus on offshore wind, carbon capture and nuclear, giving Sizewell C the green light.

“This means our current energy policy remains narrow, with a strategy overly dependent on intermittent renewables and far-off promises, propped up by fossil fuels to meet base load needs. Also, the £14bn from levies isn’t going to scratch the surface of the issues at hand.  

“Ultimately, we need further investment into diverse, long-term renewable power strategies like tidal range energy. Water is nature’s battery and remains woefully untapped in its potential to provide 24/7 green Base Load energy directly to the grid, all while revitalising many coastal regions and bringing real terms growth and prosperity to the people who need it most.”

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